Despite a significant fall in youth unemployment since the height of the economic crisis in 2009, persistent unemployment and a lack of quality job opportunities continue to hamper young people’s quest for decent work. Young people are estimated to account for over 35 per cent of the unemployed population worldwide in 2017. While the global youth unemployment rate stabilized at 13.0 per cent in 2016, it is expected to rise slightly to 13.1 per cent this year, according to the ILO’s Global Employment Trends for Youth 2017 report. The estimated figure of 70.9 million unemployed youths in 2017 is an important improvement from the crisis peak of 76.7 million in 2009, but the number is expected to rise by a further 200,000 in 2018, reaching a total of 71.1 million.

Globally, the sizeable increases in youth unemployment rates observed between 2010 and 2016 in Northern Africa, the Arab States, and Latin America and the Caribbean have been offset by improvements in youth labour markets in Europe, Northern America and sub-Saharan Africa. Overall economic growth continues to be disconnected from employment growth, and economic instability threatens to reverse observed gains in youth employment. The youth-to-adult unemployment ratio has barely changed over the past decade, illustrating the ingrained and extensive disadvantages of young people in the labour market.

The report also highlights the continued vulnerabilities of young women in the labour market. In 2017, the global rate of young women’s labour force participation is 16.6 percentage points lower than that of young men. Unemployment rates of young women are also significantly higher than those of young men, and the gender gap in the rate of young people not in employment, education or training (NEET) is even wider. Globally, the female NEET rate is 34.4 per cent, compared to 9.8 per cent for males. “Addressing these persistent labour market and social challenges faced by young women and men is crucial, not only for achieving sustainable and inclusive growth but also for the future of work and societal cohesion,” Deborah Greenfield, ILO Deputy Director-General for Policy said.

As of 2017, 39 per cent of young workers in the emerging and developing world – 160.8 million youths – are living in moderate or extreme poverty, i.e. on less than $3.10 a day. More than two in every five young people in today’s workforce are unemployed or are working but poor, a striking reality that is impacting society across the world. For many of them, their present and future lie in the informal economy. Globally, three out of four employed young women and men are in informal employment, compared to three in five adults. In developing countries, this ratio is as high as 19 out of 20 for young women and men. The youth employment challenge is therefore not just about job creation, but also – even more so – about the quality of work and decent jobs for youths.


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